So, first up, an announcement! I’m letting the cat out of the bag… The Paleo Hygienist is pregnant! This is our first little one and I’m currently 7 1/2 months along. We’re expecting in early-mid May 2014! So if the blog goes extremely quiet this Summer, you’ll know why :)
If you’ve been reading my blog over the past year or so, you may have noticed that many of my articles discuss how paleo/primitive nutrition and specific nutrients (the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2) are vital to proper development of humans, and that to produce an optimally developed child, mindful nutrition matters for BOTH parents before conception, for the mother during pregnancy, and continuing on into childhood with the nutrition the child receives. I began researching and reading all of this information about a year before my husband and I were planning to get pregnant, so it really resonated with me. I thought the information was so important that I wanted to help spread the word any way I could…thus my blog was born!
My absolute favorite article I’ve written to date was my 2-part series on the role of nutrition on jaw/palate/facial development and how we could increase the chances of straight teeth (and avoiding braces) in our children.
I guess we could call this post “Part III” because while proper pre-conception and prenatal nutrition lay the foundation for our children to have straight teeth, there is another important factor…mechanical stimulation.
Pregnant women read everything! And one of the biggest topics we read about is breastfeeding. Most articles and books focus on the nutrition benefits of breastfeeding our babies, but did you know that the mechanics of breastfeeding also play an important role in jaw, palate and facial formation of our children which, along with nutrition, positively impact our children’s chances of having straight teeth?! And seriously…does it get any more Paleo than breastfeeding?!
Our food provides us with nutrition, but it does serve another purpose, and that comes in HOW we obtain this nutrition, or in simpler terms: HOW WE EAT. Food provides us with the necessary mechanical stimulation of our jaw, palate, ligaments, and muscles to develop properly thus giving us enough room in our dental arch for all of our teeth to align correctly. Our primitive ancestors had no need for orthodontists and braces or oral surgeons to remove impacted wisdom teeth; today nearly every teenager visits at least one of these doctors.
For an infant, breastfeeding provides optimal oral mechanical stimulation compared to a bottle. A baby “sucks” on a bottle, however, when a baby breastfeeds with a proper latch on the breast something much different happens. For anyone that has ever read a breastfeeding book, taken a breastfeeding class or received instruction from a lactation consultant, you know that a deep latch is best rather than a shallow latch where the baby is sucking on the nipple, which can be quite painful for mom! With a deep latch, the baby opens wide and takes in enough breast so that it is pressing up against his/her palate. The baby does not merely “suck” the milk out, but instead uses his/her tongue in a curved U-shape on the breast and in a wave-like motion “milks” the breast to receive milk. This very rhythmic action of the tongue “milking” the breast presses on the palate, and the subsequent swallowing together play a role in proper stimulation and development of the dental arches, palate, jaw and muscles.
When we compare bottle-feeding to breastfeeding it is easy to see that the nipple on a bottle is a standard shape and size and does not fill or conform to baby’s palate, and therefore does not stimulate any widening of the palate to ensure room for all the teeth in the future. Greater suction forces are required during bottle-feeding than breastfeeding. This forceful action causes the cheeks to draw in, putting pressure on the gums and teeth, affecting the position of the teeth. As baby grows, the breast continues to conform to the baby’s mouth, whereas the bottle nipple remains constant and does not adapt to the growing mouth of a growing child.
So great, you’re breastfeeding, but there are still so many factors and questions to consider… How often should you breastfeed? On demand for a few minutes at each feeding? Every few hours with feedings lasting 20-30 minutes? How long should you breastfeed? 6 months? 1 year? Up to age 2? Up to age 4 or 5? The truth is, we don’t really know. If we think of the mechanical stimulation received by breastfeeding and compare that to exercise, it’s understandable that human development and adaptation will be different between one human that sits at a desk all day and hits the gym for 1 hour vs. the human that may not necessarily “workout” by society’s current definition, but rather incorporates movement in small doses throughout their day by limiting sitting, walking, squatting to pick up objects, etc. If we look at Hunter-Gatherer populations, they followed a more on-demand breastfeeding pattern feeding for a few minutes several times per hour as the child dictated, and while other foods entered the child’s diet, breastfeeding was still part of their nutrition until 4-5 years of age. Of course, for Hunter-Gatherer populations, food was much more scarce than it is for us today, so breastfeeding for many years helped ensure survival of their children. My advice… do what works for you, your baby and your family. Not everyone can breastfeed on demand, and not even every woman has success with breastfeeding and must bottle-feed. Some mothers want to breastfeed their children beyond 1 year, but the child becomes uninterested and self-weens. Again I say, do what works for you, your baby and your family. And when it comes time to start introducing solid foods, there are factors to consider there as well, but that’s for my next post… Stay tuned!
Want more info? Check out these great sources: